Wednesday 24 May 2017

Egypt ready to resume 'war' with Algeria in World Cup revenge quest

Jonathan Wilson in Benguela, Angola

As Mohamed Zidan bounced along a line of German journalists after Egypt's victory over Cameroon on Monday, one word seemed to dominate his thoughts on today's semi-final against Algeria: "Krieg.

For both sides this will be a war," he said.

"This is a matter of life and death. For us it's a chance to show the world that we deserve to be at the World Cup. If we win this we can watch the World Cup in peace. We're the champions and we're a better team than them. Everybody will see who is the better team."

It would be fair to say that Egypt have not yet come to terms with their 1-0 defeat to Algeria in a World Cup qualifying play-off in the Sudanese city of Omdurman in November.

"We've won the last two Cups of Nations," Zidan said, "and we had good results in the Confederations Cup. Everybody in Egypt says we are the best group of players of all time, but you can't always get what you want. The best answer for the fans, for the people and for ourselves would be to defend our title. We've a point to prove to ourselves."

And also to Algeria, whose resolute defending nullified Egypt in that play-off after taking a first-half lead through Antar Yahia's back-post volley.

"It was a game about blood, about dying; Algeria died for this game," Zidan said. "They scored a goal from nothing -- if the guy had that chance 100 times he would not hit it in that way and the ball would not go in the net that way. You can't say that Algeria don't deserve to be at the World Cup, but they had luck."

Egypt have been by some way the most impressive side so far in this Africa Cup of Nations in Angola, but there is an edginess about them. They have gone a record 17 games since losing a match in the compe-tition, but they are all too aware that the last side to beat them was Algeria, six years ago in Tunisia.

Amid the furore, the bald fact of battling for a place in the Cup of Nations final -- never mind of preparing for a World Cup group in which Algeria will meet England -- seems almost secondary.

Also somewhat obscured by the 'hate match' revisited is the fact that the other semi-final pits two of Africa's great rivals against each other. Ghana and Nigeria have battled for sporting supremacy in Anglo-phone West Africa since the first inter-colonial events in the 1930s.

Ghana held the edge until the early 1980s, and after 20 years of Nigerian supremacy, the balance seems to have tipped back towards them, a trend coach Milovan Rajevac believes can be maintained by his young squad, eight of whom were part of the side that won the world U-20 championship last year. (© Independent News Service)

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